Pros and Cons of Indoor-Only Cats VS Outdoor Cats
Should cats be kept indoors, or should they be allowed to go outside as well? This topic can be contentious, and it is rarely simple to answer.
There are pros and cons to going outside, and pros and cons to being confined indoors.
Going Outside: The Pros
The positive aspects of cats going outside is that they can express all of their natural behaviours. They can run, jump, climb and roll. They can stalk, chase and catch small prey, like rodents and birds. They can scratch their claws on trees and fencing. And they can interact socially with other cats. This full range of behaviours means that their brains are stimulated in a natural way, so they tend to live naturally fulfilled lives.
Outdoor life also allows cats to do their toiletting business in a discreet way, in hedgerows and undergrowth, neatly buried so that it composts naturally.
Going Outside: The Cons
- Cats can be ferocious predators, decimating the local garden wild bird population.
- Your neighbours may not appreciate your cat digging up and leaving deposits in their newly seeded flower beds.
- Outdoor cats can get lost, or go missing.
- Interactions with other cats can lead to injuries and illnesses picked up in fights.
- There are other hazards like dogs and foxes, as well as cars
Overall, cats that go outside live shorter lives than those kept indoors.
Being Confined Indoors: The Pros
Indoor-only cats, or “house cats” have longer life spans because they are exposed to fewer risks to their lives.
Indoor-only cats cannot get lost, or go missing.
Being Confined Indoors: The Cons
Indoor cats need to have litter trays, which creates an ongoing workload and expense. Litter trays need to be changed twice daily, at least.
Cats that live indoors are more likely to suffer from stress-related diseases such as urinary tract diseases. There are two reasons for this.
- First, often they are unable to carry out natural behaviours: it’s more difficult for them to run, jump, and climb, and their owners don’t like it when they use the furniture or wallpaper to scratch their claws. Most human houses are not set up to allow cats to do what they want to do. Without their natural activities, cats get bored and feel stressed.
- The second reason why indoor cats feel stressed is that they don’t have as much social freedom. So if they share their home with other cats that they don’t get on with, they can find it impossible to get the privacy that they need to feel relaxed.
What is the best option for cats?
The answer to this question depends on the individual situation.
If you want to let your cat outdoors
Some owners prefer to accept the small extra risks involved with cats going outdoors, and they simply allow them to do as they wish, coming and going through a cat flap.
If this is done, it’s important to have a cat microchipped, so that if they do go missing, they are more likely to be identified as your cat, and returned to you. An ID tag on a collar is also a possibility, although cats can lose collars.
If they have been indoor cats, and you are starting to allow them to go outdoors, do this gradually so that they learn about the outside world, getting their bearings. So let them out for short periods at first, when they are hungry, so that you can summon them back indoors for feeding time.
If you want to keep your cat indoors
Human homes can be adapted to make them more pleasant, less stressful places for cats.
First, cats should be allowed to run, jump and climb. The easiest way to do this is to set up a so-called “cat tree” or an indoor cat play area. This is like an assembly made up of a series of cat scratching posts put together like a big version of a home-made children’s toy castle. Horizontal platforms and ramps connect vertical posts, and there are built-in hiding holes and dangling toys to make the cat tree more engaging, creating an exciting indoor cat enclosure.
You can buy cat trees in our store, and they are delivered to your home as flat-packed packages. You assemble them like any flat-packed furniture item. They come in a range of sizes, from one that will fit neatly into the corner of a room to gigantic versions that reach up to the ceiling, sometimes big enough to occupy most of a spare bedroom.
Cats love cat trees: if you have a multiple cat household, you really need to have one of these. As well as allowing cats to engage in active exercise, they allow cats to perch up high, peering down on their housemates, and to hide away by themselves, out of sight.
You can also buy more discreet versions of cat trees, such as “cat shelving”. These are well-designed shelves that can be screwed to the wall, simulating the trees, walls and fences that cats experience when they are outside. The shelves are positioned carefully to allow cats to use them as platforms to climb up the walls. A larger type of screw-on cushioned shelf is at the top of the ladder of climbing shelves, so that cats can enjoy a comfortable snoozing place when they reach the top.
If you want to give your indoor cat a small dose of outdoor life, making them an “indoor-outdoor cat” you can create a cat patio, also known as a “catio”. This is a large aviary-type cage attached to the back of your house, almost an outdoor cat house. Your cats can come and go via a cat flap: it’s a safe, enclosed garden area, just for them.